Elements of Surprise in Good Writing

We like to be surprised when we read a short story. When I was a young writer, I thought I needed to come up with plot twists that no one could see coming. One of my writing teachers once told me he always expected that an elephant would eventually appear somewhere in a Lee Martin story—not that a literal elephant ever got space in one of my stories, but you get the idea. I was trying so hard to surprise readers on a plot level, I ignored the source of the most satisfying twists in a story, the ones that [...]

By | 2018-07-23T07:38:49+00:00 July 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|8 Comments

Artifacts and Memoir

My grandmother, Stella Inyart Martin, was said to have “healing hands.” She knew the old folk remedies—the value of sassafras tea, horehound, ginseng, blackstrap molasses. When my grandfather’s first wife was dying of tuberculosis, my grandmother was the teenage girl who came to care for her. A few years after my grandfather’s first wife died, he married my grandmother. I’m thinking about her today because lately I’ve had reason to find the heating pad she used. She died in 1965, and I’ve kept that heating pad all these years. My wife is recovering from knee replacement surgery, and extreme pain [...]

By | 2018-07-16T07:39:09+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments

So Sorry, I Didn’t See You

Lately, as my wife recovers from knee replacement surgery, she’s been taking advantage of motorized carts in the grocery store. As I walk beside her, I notice the way people react. Some of them treat Cathy as if she’s invisible, going to great pains not to look at her. Others give her smiles that I’m sure they don’t intend to infantilize her, but still, there they are, those sweet, sad smiles that say, “Look at what you can do, bless your heart.” Then there are the people who truly don’t notice her because. . .well. . .because they never really [...]

By | 2018-07-09T07:46:33+00:00 July 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|10 Comments

Let’s Keep Going

Three weeks ago tomorrow, my wife Cathy had knee replacement surgery. The surgery took place early in the morning, and that afternoon the physical therapists came to get her out of bed—to get her up and moving with the aid of a walker. A side note: Cathy has violent reactions to most opioids, but she agreed to try Dilaudid after her surgery. When the therapists got her walking, she made it to the end of her bed before she said, “Bag.” She was referring, of course, to a sickness bag. I grabbed one and gave it to her. When she [...]

By | 2018-07-02T06:59:20+00:00 July 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Nuts and Bolts: Details, Language, Content

I have no idea what to say to you today, so let me begin with a nut, not of the edible kind, but a nut meant to fit itself to a threaded bolt. A square nut, a hex nut, a wing nut, a lock nut. The list goes on. And what about the bolts? Flange bolts, eye bolts, U-bolts and J-bolts, shoulder bolts, sex bolts. And washers: flat, fender, lock, high collar lock, Ogee. The language of hardware. I start there because when I don’t know what to write, I rely on the physical world and the details that comprise [...]

By | 2018-06-25T09:42:20+00:00 June 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Caretaking and Writing

Last week, my wife Cathy had knee replacement surgery and is now recovering at home. I don’t think she’ll mind if I share some things from this experience that may prove helpful to all of us as we continue our writers’ journeys. One of the things I’ve heard Cathy say to those who ask how she’s doing after surgery is this. “On Monday, I had pain in my knee, and that pain wasn’t ever going to get any better. Today, I have pain, but that pain is eventually going to go away.” The lesson for those of us who write? [...]

By | 2018-06-18T09:08:04+00:00 June 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|8 Comments

Faith on Publication Day

The publication date is finally near for my story collection, The Mutual UFO Network. Tomorrow, on June 12, the book will be officially released. As you know this is also the day for Trump’s summit with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, but what you probably don’t know is it’s also the day when my wife, Cathy, gets a new knee. She’s been in pain for a long time, and it’s time for the pain to stop. As she’s been fond of telling people, on June 12, she’ll get a new knee, and I’ll have a new book. “One of [...]

By | 2018-06-11T07:58:29+00:00 June 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

You Have an Idea for a Story: Now What?

I’ve been posting quite a bit lately about the sources for some of the stories in my new collection, “The Mutual UFO Network.” From personal experience, to second-hand anecdote, to a heard first line, to an image that fascinated me, to a memorable person I knew, I felt my way toward a story. It’s one thing to have that glimmer of inspiration—that thing that makes me put words on a page—but it’s quite another to come up with just the right premise for the material. Over the years, I’ve shaped enough material into stories to intuitively know to look for [...]

By | 2018-06-04T08:51:59+00:00 June 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Boy Who Couldn’t Buy My Book: A Tale from the Bookstore Circuit

I’m making a special Saturday post because I’m excited about going to Dayton, Ohio, tomorrow, June 3, to introduce my new story collection, The Mutual UFO Network, to folks at Books & Co. I’ll be there at 2pm to talk a bit about short stories, to read briefly from the new book, to chat with those who come out, and to sign copies for anyone who wants one. I’ve been doing similar bookstore events for a number of years, and, when I do, I always think back to the very first one I did when my first book, the story [...]

By | 2018-06-02T09:57:59+00:00 June 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments

Sometimes a Story Begins with a Voice

I thought I’d continue my series of posts about how stories sometimes come to me. Often they begin with a voice. A narrator speaks, and I listen. I let the voice pique my curiosity. I begin to wonder what’s happened in this narrator’s life that makes it impossible for him or her to remain silent. What are the pressures that lead to the telling of the story? One of the stories in my upcoming collection, The Mutual UFO Network, began because one day, while I was running, I heard a narrator say, “My uncle was a man named Bill Jordan.” [...]

By | 2018-05-28T02:04:34+00:00 May 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments